“Exercise and physical activity are important components of health and wellness and have been shown to provide numerous physical and mental health benefits,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Carolyn M. Clancy, MD. “We are very excited to be partnering with United States Tennis Association (USTA) Foundation and hope that together, through tennis, we can improve Veterans’ physical fitness and ultimately their overall health and well-being.”
Dr. Clancy’s support of making tennis more accessible to Veterans at VA medical centers is a critical component to advocating better wellness, health, and physical/mental health of Veterans. Minneapolis (http://www.minneapolis.va.gov/), Augusta (http://www.augusta.va.gov/), and Palo Alto (http://www.paloalto.va.gov/) already have robust programs on-going with their Veteran populations. One Veteran noted “I love tennis! I forget about my appointments, my struggles, and just have fun playing tennis.” Another combat Veteran enrolled in the program at Augusta noted “Tennis is a great break from inside that hospital. I spent nine months in there trying to get better; I love being outside and just forgetting while I play tennis!” Two other sites, San Antonio (http://www.southtexas.va.gov/) and San Diego (http://www.sandiego.va.gov/), have programs where tennis professionals are working with Veterans outside VA and are looking to assist with expanding the programs even further. The recently signed VA/USTA Foundation Memorandum of Understanding and toolkit “Establishing a Tennis Program at Your VAMC” provide the basis to get this program moving forward quickly and with a negligible outlay of resources.
Existing tennis clinics serve both inpatient and outpatient Veterans, thus providing a tennis program that offers instinctive pairing of tennis professionals, therapeutic professionals and Veterans. This opportunity to participate in tennis activities would not be otherwise possible without a VA/USTA partnership.
The USTA Foundation is currently seeking other VA facilities to partner and make accessible group tennis available to Veterans. “The benefits of group tennis for a Veteran include providing physical exercise, camaraderie, fun and personal leisure enjoyment,” says Angie K., Recreational Therapist / Case Manager in Minneapolis. Critical to getting the program moving forward is that the USTA Foundation and their professionals do the heavy lifting. They will operate the clinic, help coordinate for facilities, coordinate for supplies, etc.
The USTA Foundation’s Tennis program and VA’s MOVE® program, the latter of which plans on using the tennis clinics as one of their therapeutic choices, share an equal sentiment of getting Veterans physically active in a holistic approach to overall wellness.
VA facilities interested in establishing a tennis program or learning more can contact the VHA Office of Community Engagement at CommunityEngagement@va.gov to get connected to a tennis organization and the USTA Foundation for further guidance.